David Elvin QC began making HS2AA’s case on Tuesday afternoon (after lawyers for the 51M group of local authorities had completed their submissions) and continued for most of Wednesday, 5th December.
The submissions to the Court contended that the Secretary of State for Transport had acted unlawfully in not complying with important legal requirements designed to protect the environment, in particular by failing to properly assess environmental impacts of HS2 and consult on them.
In particular it was contended Government had:
– failed to comply with the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Regulations. This was justified by arguments that the national high speed rail plan falls under the SEA regulations because it qualifies as a “plan or program” and meets the other key requirement as a result of the approach taken in the 2010 White Paper. The SEA regulations require that alternatives to the HS2 proposals be considered, environmentally assessed and consulted upon
– ignored its obligations under the Habitats Directive to undertake a required screening exercise to assess impacts on protected species and habitats
– not complied with the provisions of the Aarhus Convention for it’s decisions in this area
– made significant changes to the route after the 2011 consultation but then failed, as required by the SEA, to provide alternatives and re-consult on these changes
The case also emphasised that using the Hybrid bill process – which is currently how Government plan to progress authorisation for HS2 – would mean that the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive would not be followed.
The case continues.